Frosted vs. Etched Glass

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Etching creates a design by abrading sections of glass.

Frosted glass and etched glass are the same thing. Etching refers to the process that alters the appearance of the glass, while frosting refers to the fact the etched portion has a frosted appearance. Etching involves changing the surface of glass with an abrasive material or substance.


Craftsmen used green fluorspar etch glass, at least as early as 1670, although the mechanism by which it worked was not understood, according to "The History and Use of Our Earth's Chemical Elements," by Robert Krebs. Later scientists identified fluorine as the key agent in that etching process and eventually developed hydrofluoric acid, the compound used in glass etching today.

Etching Cream

Etching cream, sold at craft stores, contains an acid. When applied to glass the cream removes a rough layer of the glass, making the etched area look frosty white. You should always wear protective gloves when working with etching cream, and work in a well-ventilated area. To turn an entire sheet of clear glass into frosted glass, clean the glass and then paint one side of the glass with etching cream and leave on for the amount of time recommended by the etching cream manufacturer. After removing the cream and washing the glass in warm water, you have a permanently frosted sheet of glass.


Instead of a plain frosted glass, use etching cream to create designs on glass. This process involves taping a stencil onto the glass object, and then carefully painting the designed cutout area, covering the exposed glass with etching cream. The stencil protects a portion of the glass from the cream, leaving that section clear. After removing the etching cream and stencil, the glass has a design, similar in appearance to the stencil's.


Etching glass is a way to customize glass items, turning them into personalized objects. Glass items to etch include bar glasses, wine glasses, glass jars, glass canisters, windows, glass doors and glass plates. Use etching to add designs, lettering or words to glass objects. Etching is a project where you can turn relatively inexpensive glass items into personalized objects which often have a greater value than the original item.


Commercial vendors offer premade etch glassware as well as custom glass items to order. A popular gift item is one with the first initial of the recipient's surname etched on its surface.


Ann Johnson

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.